Cotton Tenants: Three Families

Cotton Tenants Three Families A re discovered masterpiece of reporting by a literary icon and a celebrated photographerIn James Agee and Walker Evans published Let Us Now Praise Famous Men a four hundred page prose symphony

A re discovered masterpiece of reporting by a literary icon and a celebrated photographerIn 1941, James Agee and Walker Evans published Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a four hundred page prose symphony about three tenant farming families in Hale County, Alabama at the height of the Great Depression The book shattered journalistic and literary conventions Critic Lionel TriA re discovered masterpiece of reporting by a literary icon and a celebrated photographerIn 1941, James Agee and Walker Evans published Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a four hundred page prose symphony about three tenant farming families in Hale County, Alabama at the height of the Great Depression The book shattered journalistic and literary conventions Critic Lionel Trilling called it the most realistic and most important moral effort of our American generation The origins of Agee and Evan s famous collaboration date back to an assignment for Fortune magazine, which sent them to Alabama in the summer of 1936 to report a story that was never published Some have assumed that Fortune s editors shelved the story because of the unconventional style that marked Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, and for years the original report was lost.But fifty years after Agee s death, a trove of his manuscripts turned out to include a typescript labeled Cotton Tenants Once examined, the pages made it clear that Agee had in fact written a masterly, 30,000 word report for Fortune.Published here for the first time, and accompanied by thirty of Walker Evans s historic photos, Cotton Tenants is an eloquent report of three families struggling through desperate times Indeed, Agee s dispatch remains relevant as one of the most honest explorations of poverty in America ever attempted and as a foundational document of long form reporti

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Cotton Tenants: Three Families

  1. James Agee Walker Evans John Summers Adam Haslett says:
    An American author, journalist, poet, screenwriter and film critic In the 1940s, he was one of the most influential film critics in the U.S His autobiographical novel, A Death in the Family 1957 , won the author a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.LifeAgee was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, at Highland Avenue and 15th Street renamed James Agee Street in 1999 to Hugh James Agee and Laura Whitman Tyler When Agee was six, his father died in an automobile accident From the age of seven, he and his younger sister, Emma, were educated in boarding schools The most influential of these was located near his mother s summer cottage two miles from Sewanee, Tennessee Saint Andrews School for Mountain Boys was run by Episcopal monks affiliated with the Order of the Holy Cross, and it was there that Agee s lifelong friendship with an Episcopal priest, Father James Harold Flye, began in 1919 As Agee s close friend and spiritual confidant, Flye was the recipient of many of Agee s most revealing letters.Agee went to Knoxville High School for the 1924 1925 school year, then travelled with Father Flye to Europe On their return, Agee moved to boarding school in New Hampshire, entering the class of 1928 at Phillips Exeter Academy There, he was president of The Lantern Club and editor of the Monthly where his first short stories, plays, poetry and articles were published Agee was admitted to Harvard University s class of 1932 He was editor in chief of the Harvard Advocate.In 1951 in Santa Barbara, Agee, a hard drinker and chain smoker, suffered the first two in a series of heart attacks, which ultimately claimed his life four years later at the age of 45 He was buried on a farm he owned at Hillsdale, New York.CareerAfter graduation, he wrote for Fortune and Time magazines, although he is better known for his later film criticism in The Nation In 1934, he published his only volume of poetry, Permit Me Voyage.In the summer of 1936, Agee spent eight weeks on assignment for Fortune with photographer Walker Evans living among sharecroppers in Alabama Agee turned the material into a book entitled, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men 1941 It sold only 600 copies before being remaindered.In 1942, Agee became the film critic for Time and, at one point, reviewed up to six books per week Together, he and friend Whittaker Chambers ran the back of the book for Time He left to become film critic for The Nation In 1948, however, he quit both magazines to become a freelance writer One of his assignments was a well received article for Life Magazine about the great silent movie comedians, Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Harry Langdon, which has been credited for reviving Keaton s career As a freelance in the 1950s, he continued to write magazine articles while working on movie scripts, often with photographer Helen Levitt.Agee was an ardent champion of Charlie Chaplin s then extremely unpopular film Monsieur Verdoux 1947 , which has since become a film classic He was also a great admirer of Laurence Olivier s Henry V and Hamlet, especially Henry V, for which he actually published three separate reviews, all of which have been printed in the collection Agee on Film.LegacyLet Us Now Praise Famous Men, ignored on its original publication in 1941, has been placed among the greatest literary works of the 20th Century by the New York School of Journalism and the New York Public Library.

900 Reply to “Cotton Tenants: Three Families”

  1. Ida Ruth Tingle, age four is possibly the last child they will bring into living, and she is extremely delicate She dislikes what little food they have but loves chicken and coffee So, steadily, they have bumped off a long string of chickens to feed her, and she drinks two or three cups of black and parboiled coffee at every meal Her eyes shine like burning oil and almost continuously she dances with drunkenness During the summer of 1936, in the midst of the Great Depression, Fortune magazine se [...]


  2. In the 1930 s and 40 s one did not have to go to another country to find people living in abject poverty, one only needed to visit the cotton belt of the good ol USA The plight of share croppers mostly white, but some black families, a generational poverty with no hope of ever rising above nor getting out of debt Alabama, during the great depression, James Agee, a journalist, follows the work laden life of three families Woman, who are worn out and look twenty years older than they should, men e [...]


  3. an incredible forbes fortune magazine article, that never got printed agee and photographer walker evans tour white 1936 cotton south to see how the economy was treating poor ass farmers turns out they could have visited feudal ukraine or rural mexico and would have been the same picture fdr finally got help to rural usa, via cooperative electricity, federal ag research and extension, water management, lbj s 1965 voter rights act , built much needed FEDERAL sourced infrastructure which we are ST [...]


  4. Reflecting on the Great Depression Era A sensitive homage to the SouthAt last we are privileged to see and read the initial brilliant journalistic evaluation of the effects of the great Depression on the tenant farmers also known as sharecroppers in the South as reported by the legendary James Agee 1905 1955 and photographed by Walker Evans 1903 1975 This lost manuscript was Agee s original contribution to Fortune Magazine who sent him on assignment to report on the conditions of the cotton farm [...]


  5. This short but haunting read was originally an article James Agee had written in 1936 as an assignment for Fortune Magazine.He spent an entire summer in Moundsville, Alabama 20 something miles south of Tuscaloosa mostly visiting with three sharecropper families.Agee had a lot to crab about in his article the living conditions of the sharecroppers or, as they preferred to call themselves tenant farmers He raised holy hell with the editors of Fortune claiming that these families and others like th [...]



  6. nb I received an advance review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss Cotton Tenants Three Families takes us inside the backbreaking work and soul breaking poverty of three tenant farmers in 1936 rural Alabama It is hard to read without a sense of incredulity that people actually lived like this from generation to generation This is the kind of book that indelibly impresses itself on your soul.In 1936, Fortune magazine sent staff writer James Agee and photographer Walker Evans to re [...]


  7. Depressingly Poignant This book was reviewed as part of s Vine program which included a free advance copy of the book.I d seen the pictures of the somber looking farming family assembled on a hastily made porch throughout the years, but never gave them much thought other than assuming the pictures echoed the effects of the Great Depression in rural America In other words, a snapshot of how bad life was during those years prior to America s great economic salvation otherwise known as the Second W [...]


  8. Cotton Tenants is the story of three families struggling as tenant farmers in 1930 s Alabama It is a story of economic and social injustice but also of generational poverty Originally the report was written for Fortune magazine but never published, the unconventional style of the article sited as the reason, the raw content must have been just as unconventional as the style and a factor as well It is unconventional and it is uncomfortable to read at times.Agee s style of writing is eloquent but [...]


  9. The closest comparative work I can think of is the one act versus the full version of View From the Bridge Or, perhaps, to use a very Agee esque analogy, this is to Let Us Now Praise Famous Men when the Eroica piano variations are to the symphony But still what was Luce, or, for that matter, any editor working for Luce, thinking That Fortune might ever print this



  10. As a student of photography, essentially, this book is narrative put to the photography of Dorothea Lange, who with the onset of the Great Depression, used her camera lens to great and eminent effect to historically document the unemployed and homeless people of the Depression and the Dust Bowl, or Dirty Thirties, defining eras of early 20th Century America Lange s skill in capturing this realism led to her employment with the federal Resettlement Administration RA , later called the Farm Securi [...]


  11. Let Us Now Acknowledge that Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is not James Agee s most accessible book If you ve always felt like you should ve plowed through it but inevitably lost steam somewhere inside the forest of his verbosity and propensity for description then by all means pick this one up now A fascinating look at the lives of tenant farmers and three families in rural Alabama in the 1930s The themes which Agee explores here race relations, labor, poverty and health care have never seemed r [...]


  12. This sad little muckraking book gives an up close and personal look at three families living as tenants on cotton farms in Alabama in the 1930s All three families have substantial struggles one family is still hoping to pull themselves or their children out of abject poverty but the other two families have given up.Agee describes their food never enough , their clothes mostly flour sacks , their working conditions like all farmers, they work hard , their education, etc Although the children were [...]


  13. It s James Agee and Walker Evans, for heaven s sake, so it could hardly be less than 5 stars This is the piece Agee eventually turned into Forbes, after being hired to write about sharecroppers It was never published, although Agee s masterpiece, LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS MEN, was later published This long read piece came out a couple of years ago and although it doesn t have the near manic incendiary fire of FAMOUS MEN, it is a gut wrenching unforgettable read Agee s compassion and despair are o [...]


  14. I selected this book, not because of the narrative, but rather because of the pictures by Walker Evans The photography is beautiful and greatly enhances the reading I also enjoyed the writing by James Agee.It is interesting in its presentation of information about the three families Agee provided some context for understanding the lives of the families.


  15. Cotton Tenants Three Families by James Agee is a collection of essays on the life of tenant farmers in Hale County, Alabama These are the leftovers, found in the author s estate, from his Let Us Now Praise Famous Men 1941 pussreboots blog 2017 comm


  16. Excellent book It s sad to think that I have family who were likely described here This helps my thesis research, and, importantly, it gives me a better perspective on how hard their lives were.


  17. En su libro Aisthesis, Ranciere habla de este reportaje bajo uno de los mas bellos y acertados t tulos de la critica literaria el de El resplandor cruel de lo que es En este, define, en principio, la particularidad que gravita en el trabajo de Agee En Cotton Tenants se dan sucesivas rupturas tanto en el contenido, en el tratamiento de los temas, como en su forma y presentaci n, afirma Rupturas con que No solo con el periodismo tradicional, que pregona la s ntesis, la focalizacion en un tema part [...]


  18. What a load of crap from a pervert that graduated from Harvard A man that drank himself to death at the age of 45 Of course, his wife running off with a communist didn t help his feelings The manuscript wasted away in Greenwich Village for nearly 20 years, it should have been a lot longer In order to understand this book I think you have to understand the author He requested Walker Evans as his photographer Walker worked for the Resettlement Administration RA that later became Farm Security Admi [...]


  19. Interrumpida por su prematura muerte, la obra de James Agee siempre parece demasiado corta, marcada por sus colaboraciones cinematogr ficas con John Huston y Charles Laughton y por su sensible mirada sobre el microcosmos familiar El impulso editorial llevado a cabo a principios de siglo, sin embargo, nos ha permitido escarbar en el trabajo del escritor norteamericano hasta encontrar sus ra ces Escritos sobre cine, novelas y narraciones period sticas que, ante todo, describen un temperamento po t [...]


  20. This is the article commissioned by Fortune Magazine and, ultimately, not published which birthed the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men We learn about the lives of three tenant farmers of moderate means As he explains, his intention is to show the median rather than the high or the low This approach would help to lend empathy to stories reported in current journalism steering clear of poverty porn and idolization of the well off simulataneously.This book is particularly relevant at this time Re [...]


  21. I am grateful to Fortune magazine for opting not to publish Cotton Tenants The book that grew from the roots of this largely unremarkable piece of muckraking journalism is a masterpiece Although it has been many years since I read Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, I recall that book possessing the striking naked candor of Agee wrestling with his place in the world relative to the families he was reporting on and indeed to the wider world as the seeds of war were sown in Europe and the Depression rag [...]


  22. words by a great american novelist, photos by a legend brilliant exactly what you wish every piece of longform journalism was like takes an unequivocal unflinching moral stand on poverty, which is probably the reason it wasn t published during their lifetimes but is also the reason it is so impressive memorable A civilization which for any reason puts a human life at a disadvantage or a civilization which can exist only by putting human life at a disadvantage is worthy neither of the name nor of [...]


  23. What a snapshot at the bleak life of tenant farmers in the 30s The photos do a good deal of good in conveying this too, and it is very personal It will do you a great bit of good to immerse yourself in their lives like this and imagine a life without all of the conveniences we take for granted Then, remember that it isn t that far off from what some people in the world still live like.I read this in some ways to contribute to finding an understanding of the roots from which American society has [...]


  24. Two and a half stars Reading this short book kept bringing to mind the thought that I ought to like it much than I did I think my discontent is sourced, not by the subject matter, but by Agee himself, whose writing style elliptic, curt, tough guy, convoluted was annoying, a distraction Though this might not have been intended to be published, I wish someone would have removed its numerous typos before publishing it Agee s report occasionally made me pine for Hortense Powdermaker s After Freedom [...]


  25. only 3 stars because of the subject, not the writing this book was so hard to read the lives of these average white sharecroppers were so bleak hopeless The photos were beautiful yet stark these poor people just dragging through life it really hurt me to read But i learned much about life in the South during that time period.


  26. Powerful and very disturbing both James Agee s writing style is arresting the book is precise with the quotidian facts of the individuals lives, while also conveying the spiritual, emotional, intellectual qualities of their lives A fast read, but one don t think I ll ever forget.


  27. Beautifully written More poetry than investigative journalism Somewhat undermined by the authors clear disdain for everyone around him.


  28. A time capsule ethnography of three southern cotton farmers A very interesting time period and place to be covered.


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